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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: After delay to conference schedule, Gonzaga makes statement to rest of WCC with rout of Pepperdine

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 8, 2022

By Vince Grippi The Spokesman-Review

It’s been awhile since the Gonzaga men’s basketball team has been on a court. Or on the television. A 10-day hiatus ended Saturday night at McCarthey Center and on KHQ in Spokane.

Which meant Greg Heister, Richard Fox and Dan Dickau invaded the area’s living rooms again and described the Zags’ West Coast Conference-opening 117-83 win over Pepperdine.

“It’s like the start of a new season,” Heister said to open the broadcast.

“Nice start, delayed start, but nonetheless a nice start here to conference play for the Zags, I would say,” Fox understated as the clock ticked off the final seconds.

“A nice start?” Heister asked incredulously. “They scored 117 points, Richard.”

“Solid start,” Fox said, chuckling.

What they saw …

• After the loss of their first three WCC games – three games were postponed but other than the one with San Francisco (14-2), there is no guarantee they will be made up – the Bulldogs looked ready to show the rest of the conference, no matter how improved it may be, they aren’t going to roll over.

Unless you mean rolling over the Waves, as the Zags scored their most points against the visitors from Southern California.

Gonzaga established its dominance in the first 2 minutes. Actually, a few seconds less than that.

“That’s the best 1 minute, 51 (seconds) I’ve seen this season,” Dickau marveled as the Bulldogs built a 10-0 lead with run outs, great passes and near-perfect shooting.

“This is as good a start you could hope for out of the break,” Fox responded.

It wasn’t just the Zags’ staple, their offense, though that was exceptionally efficient, even for them. Halfway through the first half, they led 36-14 while shooting 70% and posting nine assists on 14 made shots.

It was the other part of the score in which GU was excelling, forcing turnovers (six), holding Pepperdine (6-10) to 35% shooting and doubling the Waves’ rebound total.

That defensive intensity waned the last few minutes of the first half, but it returned to start the second half as the fourth-ranked Bulldogs (12-2) hounded Pepperdine into five consecutive misses, and went on a 13-0 run to put the game away.

“This is about as good as Gonzaga has been in a while with that help-side defense,” Fox said.

“That’s still the end of the floor, that can have more room for growth,” Dickau said a little later. “You’re seeing it tonight.”

• In a game like Saturday’s, there were many Gonzaga players who had solid to outstanding games. The crew wasn’t shy about praising them.

“Andrew Nembhard is performing a passing clinic,” Dickau said early in the second half, when the senior guard had “just” seven assists. He finished with eight, along with six rebounds and just three turnovers.

“(Hunter) Sallis is so good at that,” Fox said after the freshman scored the 11th of his 13 points on a nice cut that attracted a Drew Timme pass. “He doesn’t just stop playing. … He does a great job of cutting away from the ball.”

“What a nice night (Anton) Watson is having,” Fox said about the Gonzaga Prep graduate who has had four consecutive strong games. “Seventeen (points) now.”

“If this becomes normal,” Dickau added, “that’s a whole other problem for opponents with scouting report prep.”

Watson finished with 19 points, a point better than Timme and Chet Holmgren for the team scoring lead.

What we saw …

• Gonzaga announced this week new coronavirus rules within McCarthey, the most visible of which was supposed to be the closure of concession stands.

The reason? If the announced crowd of 6,000 – there were quite a few visible open seats – was not eating, then there would be fewer excuses to not have the mandatory mask pulled up.

It seemed to work. Quick scans of the crowd – students are still on break so the broadcast’s ambient sound was muted – showed just about everyone in attendance had masks worn correctly.

• The long layoff might have impacted Heister. He seemed to struggle in the first half identifying Pepperdine’s players, making a handful of misidentifications and a couple of other statistical mistakes. One nice aspect of the local broadcast team is Heister’s teammates were there to pick him up, helping those watching stay informed. It’s something that doesn’t always happen on national broadcasts

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